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Mothers serving a prison sentence who have sole caring responsibility for children under 16 years of age are normally allowed to spend up to three days every six months at home as the end of their sentence approaches. This is termed ‘childcare resettlement leave’ (CRL).
Recently, two women convicted of serious drug trafficking offences went to court to contest the CRL arrangements relating to their children. They argued that the regime applied was inflexible and took insufficient account of the merits of individual cases.
One of the women has three children under the age of 14 and the other has one child aged 15. The women were refused CRL because they were in the early phases of their sentences and, as a matter of routine, CRL is only granted to prisoners who are in the latter stages of their prison terms.
The two women argued that the denial of adequate contact with their children could have adverse consequences on their upbringing and could lead to an enhanced risk of the children becoming criminalised.
The High Court agreed that the use of a ‘blanket policy’ on CRL was not only inappropriate but also unlawful.
The Ministry of Justice is said to be considering an appeal.